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The Willits News
Greg Schindel Originals - A Willits family makes beautiful music together on new CD
You get the feeling when you listen to Greg Schindel’s latest disc that it’s a story of his life; vignettes of those heady days in the 50s and 60s when many young people lost their way and tried hard to make sense of their lives and the world around them before finally coming to maturity.
Greg was one of those searching young people; a college student living in Newport Beach who dropped out and left school just six credits short of graduating with a major in English Literature. He ultimately earned his BA in Liberal Studies from Sonoma State University. His experience of “going to head out on the road” is poignantly told in the song Pack and Boots and also in the lonely strains of the harmonica in Broken Hearts.
Best known for his guitar playing, Greg also makes the harmonica sing and cry in many of his songs on this interesting and beautifully performed disc. He is backed up by his family; his son, Malakai, on flute and the haunting didgeridoo, his daughter, Heidi, and his wife, Donna, who harmonize and provide contrast with their clear ringing tones to Greg’s distinctive voice.
Going back to his roots with Alysong, Greg and Malakai combine guitar, voice and flute in an original melody honoring Alysan, an old friend and mentor from his childhood. She counseled him to write love songs and an instrumental. He wrote this hymn to her without words, but with love.
One of the most unusual and lingering songs on the disc is Dark Shadows, inspired by Greg’s encounter with a snake while living in Bolinas, after his flight from Newport Beach. The music is dynamic and dramatic with Heidi’s voice and percussion. Malakai is at his best on the didgeridoo in this one.
As a contrast to the dark melodrama of Dark Shadows, Dancing With the Children is bright and colorful and whimsical, inspired by the years Greg was music director for elementary school children in Willits. It features Heidi singing background, adding to the excitement while Malakai’s flute takes off in a glorious spiral.
One of my favorites is Breathe Love, a lovely blending of Heidi’s and Donna’s voices in the chorus of Greg’s simple love story accompanied by his singing harmonica.
Greg accompanies himself on Autoharp on one of the most unique songs, Mercury Head Dime. It is set to lyrics written by David Bradley, a poet and friend of Greg’s from the Bolinas days. It brings back memories of everybody’s childhood and leaves you humming the tune and reminiscing about the “good old days”.
The first song on the disc is Mountain Quail, which those who are familiar with Greg’s Folk-Jazz music will recognize. It also sets the scene for the brilliant artwork that enhances the disc and its cover.
Another talented Willits resident, John Wagenet, created the gouache (opaque watercolor) painting as an idealized representation of country life highlighted prominently by a striking mountain quail against a background of a country cottage much like the one in which the Schindel family lives in the Willits hills. Greg commissioned his friend, John, to paint a cover for his Caretaker cassette, produced in 1986 and it has been computer rendered by Donna Schindel to turn this disc into a rare piece of art as well as music. The air brushed watercolor sky at sunset is highlighted by Mount Sanhedrin and Impassible Rock and although it is an imaginary scene, it is remarkably like the hills and valleys of Northern Mendocino County.
John has reproduced his original painting in 5 by 7 note cards, which are on sale along with the Greg Schindel Originals disc at Leaves of Grass Bookstore. The disc is also on sale at Main Street Music.